CPCA – Friend or Foe?

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Webmaster’s response to ‘Virtual Reality’

Sydenham Town is CPCA’s friend. However, the CPCA article would suggest we are their foes. How can this apparent paradox occur?

Well first let me make clear this website’s agenda. We are here to support and inform all of our community – whether they be individuals or groups. We provide a Forum where any individual may make any contribution about Sydenham and its environs within the limits of the law and decency.

We take no side on any controversial view – rather we are here to provide a place where it can be openly discussed and the different viewpoints scrutinised. Good arguments may win friends, bad ones will be taken apart as they should be. Individuals should be free to make their own choices.

We have reported positively on CPCA’s activities. We have presented both sides in the LDA/CP Park Housing issue. We are neutral on this. That’s really easy because even I, as the webmaster and living very near the park, have yet to decide personally whether it is a good or a bad idea.

LDA/Dialog organised a special consultation meeting for the general public to *workshop* their ideas on returning some land to the Park and using some to help finance the regeneration of the park. This happened on June 1st at Anerley Town Hall. It was the spark point for this article.

I think all who went will agree it was a disaster. There was no effective workshop. There are at least two views why this happened. The first, articulated by the CPCA people was that the workshop was structured in such a way as to severely limit their opportunity to make their views clear to all who attended. In one sense this is correct. The LDA objective was to present a brief summary of the plans that had consulted at length on earlier and then work through them with the public present in smaller groups.

The other viewpoint is that the CPCA would not honour the ‘standing orders’ of the meeting organisers. The number, length and content of interventions of those associated with the CPCA appeared to be beyond what the organisers had planned. It was perceived by some as disruptive. Hence those unfamiliar with the CP plans were inhibited from getting all the information required and exploring the options.

There were some confrontations between those venturing opinions for development and those opposing it. Whether you consider those reasonable or overly aggressive is a matter of opinion. Also whether this was the cause for a number of people to leave the meeting early.

What is fact is that many people were very angry and a number of them subsequently posted their viewpoints in the Forum. Being at the meeting I was able to judge that they were a fair reflection of what the posters believed had happened. Hence any ‘over-expression’ was understandable. I thought it inadvisable to moderate it out without losing a sense of the intemperate nature of the event. These reports unsurprisingly caused some concern amongst people who had not been present but were interested in the Park’s future.

In fairness I called the CPCA to make them aware of the concern expressed – which to be honest – I shared. I suggested instead of me writing it up they might wish to put their view in full and uneditted on the main website. In other words giving to the CPCA a platform they had been accusing the LDA of denying them and ensuring balance.

The CPCA felt unable to take advantage of this. They cited they do not respond to anonymous criticism. I found this disappointing. I had made the point as moderator that it was the issues and arguments presented that were important – and not who made them. But that’s their decision and I was content with that.

Then without warning or even the courtesy of letting me know they published the newsletter article which villifies this website and some posters. It contain a number of inaccuracies, misleading arguments and misconceptions. These, I believe, may seriously mislead the CPCA membership. There, unlike here, is no immediate opportunity to put the facts straight. It also rather ironically attacks criticism from anonymous sources by an author who remains anonymous.

But rather than returning cheap shots at the CPCA article I want to move to the overarching question ‘Friend or Foe’? The objective of this website is to publicise the view of any community group. It is to provide a platform for individuals to scrutinise the LDA’s plans and the CPCA response. It is to be a ‘critical friend’.

The thread from which CPCA selectively quoted was started with someone who joined to post an article in sympathy with the CPCA position. The complete thread contains the diversity of views one would expect in a vibrant community. Both in favour and against. The most vociferous critic was doing so on behalf of what he/she thought was the CPCA membership.

I worry about the future of any organisation who view their friends as the enemy. A public body should surely respond positively and politely to criticism even if it believes it unfounded. The thread does suggest the CPCA may be alienating people who otherwise might support them. Creating foes.

And it is just not this website. The other website cited (Virtual Norwood) has had a very similar encounter. This is what their webmaster «posted in response».

The name of the game for community groups is to win friends and influence people. The CPCA started with the sympathy of most people who’s natural inclination is to say ‘no’ to housing in the park. They had 7,000 sign a petition. Is what the CPCA now doing possibly counterproductive? Some people think so and are saying it.

Please don’t shoot the messenger …

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